Cannabis, also known as marijuana or hemp, has a long and complex history in Asia. The plant has been used for a variety of purposes, including for medicinal, spiritual, and recreational purposes. The history of cannabis in Asia can be traced back thousands of years, to the ancient civilizations of China, India, and Central Asia.
The earliest known evidence of cannabis use in Africa comes from the remains of a 3,400-year-old Egyptian mummy. The mummy was found with traces of cannabis in its hair and clothing, suggesting that the deceased had used cannabis for medicinal purposes. This is the earliest known evidence of cannabis use, and it suggests that the plant had been used in Africa for thousands of years prior.
In ancient China, cannabis was primarily used for medicinal purposes. The Chinese medical text “Shennong Bencaojing,” written around 100 AD, describes the use of cannabis as a treatment for a variety of ailments, including gout, rheumatism, and malaria. Additionally, the text mentions that cannabis was used as a pain reliever during surgical procedures.
In ancient India, cannabis was used for both medicinal and spiritual purposes. The Vedas, ancient Hindu texts dating back to 1500 BC, mention the use of cannabis in religious rituals. The plant was believed to have spiritual properties and was often used to induce a state of euphoria and heightened awareness during religious ceremonies. The use of cannabis in India was also widespread in Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient Indian system of medicine, where it was used to treat a variety of ailments such as pain, anxiety, and insomnia.
Central Asia was also an important center for the cultivation and use of cannabis. The nomadic tribes of the region, such as the Scythians and the Sarmatians, were known to have used the plant for both medicinal and recreational purposes. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who traveled to the region in the 5th century BC, described the nomads using cannabis in their religious rituals and for the treatment of various ailments.
As the use of cannabis spread across Asia, different cultures developed their own unique uses and customs surrounding the plant. In Korea, for example, cannabis was used to make traditional clothing and paper, while in Japan it was used in the production of traditional sweets.
However, despite its widespread use and cultural significance, the history of cannabis in Asia is not without controversy. In the 20th century, many countries in the region began to criminalize the possession and use of the plant, following the lead of the United States and other western countries.
In China, cannabis was first criminalized in 1927, under the National Narcotics Control Commission. However, the plant continued to be used in traditional medicine, and it was not until 1985 that the Chinese government began a campaign to eradicate cannabis cultivation.
In India, the use of cannabis was criminalized in 1985, under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. Prior to this, cannabis had been widely used in traditional medicine and was considered an important crop for farmers. The criminalization of cannabis had a significant impact on the country’s economy and society, particularly in rural areas where the plant had been widely cultivated.
In recent years, there has been a growing movement to legalize cannabis in Asia, driven by a growing body of research on the medicinal benefits of the plant and a growing public awareness of the harms caused by the criminalization of cannabis.